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Ice jams driving up river levels in Winnipeg

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WINNIPEG - The Red River in Winnipeg is within a few feet of its  predicted crest because of an ice jam at the Redwood Bridge.

But river levels are expected to drop - albeit temporarily - once the ice moves downstream.

As of 4:30 p.m., the Red had reached 20.6 feet above normal winter ice levels at the James Avenue monitoring station. That’s a rise of more than two feet since Wednesday afternoon.

The cause is a pile up of ice at the Redwood Bridge that began at 10 p.m. on Wednesday night, said city flood-protection engineer Grant Mohr.

He expects the jam to move downstream later today. Water levels on the Red should drop one to 1.5 feet afterward, he added.

Solid ice south of King's Park is also driving up water levels on the Red River in the southernmost reaches of the city, Mohr added.

Neither the ice jam at the Redwood Bridge or the solid ice in Fort Garry is endangering any additional low-lying properties, Mohr said.

Once all the ice begins to move freely through the city, the province may operate the Red River Floodway control structure.

Amphibex machines are on standby for spot duty in the city if need be, said a spokesman for Manitoba Water Stewardship.

But it's very dangerous to deploy an amphibex in an ice jam, said Mohr.

The predicted crest for the Red in Winnipeg this spring is 20 to 23 feet James.

The city has advised 30 low-lying properties to have sandbag dikes in place by Friday and another 80 to follow suit by Sunday.

Most of the initial 30 dikes should be complete today, said public works flood coordinator Scott Payne.

An additional 450 properties are on the flood-protection list.

As of 10:20 a.m., 660 volunteers - including 400 students - were working on dikes inside the city, emergency preparedness co-ordinator Randy Hull said.

Counting the students, 1,125 people have volunteered or have registered to volunteer so far, Hull said.

More volunteers are still needed to help build sandbag dikes over the coming days and weeks. Volunteers are asked to sign up by calling 311.

Out of town residents who wish to volunteer in Winnipeg may register at 1-877-311-4974, Hull said.

Hull asked people to register to allow the city to triage properties, bus in volunteers and provide homes where volunteers are at work with portapotties and donated refreshments.

The Red River Floodway will also moderate river levels within the city once it begins operating.

As of Wednesday, about 2,800 cubic feet per second of water -- roughly seven per cent of the Red's flow at Winnipeg -- was spilling into the floodway on its own.

And the lower end of the Assiniboine River has also risen to the point where water is entering at least one apartment-building parkade in Osborne Village. The parkade is being pumped out.

Other Assiniboine River-front properties have floodwalls in place, Mohr said.

The City of Winnipeg is also employing social media to disseminate flood-preparation and emergency-response information.


Updated on Thursday, April 7, 2011 at 9:20 AM CDT: Information on ice jams added

9:56 AM: Updates with new information

10:35 AM: Volunteers needed.

11:29 AM: Updates numbers.

1:09 PM: Updates with new information

4:39 PM: Adds level of river at 4:30 p.m.

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